Created By: Seeking Abraham Project
Main Street, Liberty Bridge, Falls Park--all the staples of the thriving downtown atmosphere are around you. You might wonder how this all got here, and you’ve come to the right place - Camperdown Mill, the Unsung History of Downtown Greenville.
Head towards the suspended bridge over the river, face the waterfalls, and you’ll be at the right place. Though the mill itself no longer remains, Camperdown Mill once stood directly on the falls of the Reedy River. Camperdown Mill was constructed in 1876 when a Oscar H. Sampson and George F. Hall made a deal with Vardry and McBee to open a cotton thread factory powered by waters of the falls of the Reedy River. According to the City of Greenville official history, Camperdown Mill brought a variety of industries to flourish along the river including factories producing paper and weapons, as well as a saw mill and grist and corn mills.
Camperdown Mill was a cotton thread factory, producing fancy yarn and gingham. According to the Appalachian History, the Reedy’s waters would flow many different colors depending on which dye was being discarded into the river on any particular day. Unfortunately, the textile mill industry along the banks of the river were the major contribution to the decline of the river and the current state of pollution.
According to Dave Tabler, editor and author of Appalachian History, at the start of the twentieth century, eight mills employing thousands of workers were in operation within a two-mile radius of the Reedy River. Though Camperdown brought a lot of neighbors to the falls, Camperdown itself didn’t bring a lot of business or job security for the mill town residents, like many of the other mills coming along the tour. According to clippings of the Greenville News and the Charlotte Observer from the early twentieth century, Camperdown mill experienced many fires, closures, changes in ownership, it opened and closed at the mercy of the economy, and is even classified by Town Carolina as an “financial disappointment”. Due to an increasing import of Japanese fabric and gingham, Camperdown’s production was not needed and the mill ceased operation in 1964. The Camperdown Mill town was eventually consumed by downtown Greenville, the residents moved away, and the mill was eventually torn down.
However, the cessation of Camperdown Mill did not bring about an end for what was now a thriving scene in Downtown Greenville. Neighboring mills along the Reedy continued production, and the new residents and businesses were here to stay. For this reason, most histories of Camperdown Mill jump directly to the flourishing Falls park and Downtown Greenville, and neglect to include the stories of Camperdown’s contribution to river pollution and economic instability.
Camperdown Mill is a two sided coin in Greenville’s History; on one side representing the decline of the Reedy River, and an unsuccessful gingham and yarn export industry out of Greenville. On the other hand, however, downtown Greenville would not exist without the pioneer hub along the banks of the Reedy River that was Camperdown Mill, and is now Falls Park on the Reedy River. Though Camperdown Mill is no longer a landmark in Downtown Greenville, the Mill’s production and location brought business and residence to what might have been a small, disregarded town, influencing what we know today as Downtown Greenville in tangible and memorable ways.
Connor, Eric. "The History of Greenville's Camperdown Mill." The Greenville News. July 29, 2016.
"Flow Chart - a Look at How Greenville, SC's Reedy River Shaped That City." Appalachian History. January 05, 2014.
Tingle, Stephen. "RUN OF THE MILLS." TOWN Carolina. February 04, 2016. https://towncarolina.com/article/run-mills/.
The Greenville News. Greenville, South Carolina. Sun, Sep 22, 1985 · Page 65.
The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte, North Carolina. Fri, Jul 20, 1906 · Page 1.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Milling Around Greenville, South Carolina